Ichiro Suzuki raved about his experience with the Yankees. He enjoyed blending into a clubhouse loaded with fellow veterans. He thrived under the pressure of his first pennant race in years. He ended the season open-minded about a reunion.
The Yankees made it clear Thursday night that the feeling is mutual. They are on the brink of signing Ichiro to a two-year contract, according to a person familiar with the situation, a surprising development considering the team's desire to cut payroll for the 2014 season. The new contract, reportedly worth about $13 million, could be agreed upon as early as Friday.
The Yankees initially approached Ichiro about a one-year deal, but other suitors such as the Phillies emerged with multiyear offers, according to a source. In response, the Yankees anted up to keep the Japanese star, who looked rejuvenated after his July trade from the Mariners.
Ichiro hit .322 and swiped 14 bases in 67 games, all while providing a much-needed defensive upgrade in the outfield. He moved from the bottom of the lineup to near the top. And at playoff time, while almost all of the other Yankees bats went into early hibernation, he provided some life.
Ichiro had asked the Mariners for a trade to a contender, and the Yankees made that request worthwhile by giving him his first postseason appearance since 2001. He made the most of it, hitting .275 in nine postseason games and providing one of the team's playoff highlights. In ALDS Game 2, Ichiro danced his way around Orioles catcher Matt Wieters to score a run.
CC on track. Six weeks after undergoing minor elbow surgery, CC Sabathia said he is on track to begin throwing just after Christmas. "The range of motion is back,'' he said. "I'm not worried. I'm excited about the season.''Six weeks have passed since Sabathia had surgery to remove bone spurs from his valuable left elbow. But he says he remains on track to be ready on time when he arrives at spring training.
"I'll be able to start with the pitchers on time,'' Sabathia said. "The past couple of years, I guess the past five or six, I've been taking it slow in spring training -- being a veteran, I guess -- and learning how to get ready for the season. I'll just continue doing the same thing.''
That's welcome news for the Yankees, who owe their ace $119 million in the next seven seasons. Sabathia landed on the disabled list twice in 2012, when he went 15-6 with a 3.38 ERA and logged only 200 innings, his lowest total since 2006.
The Yankees will look to Sabathia to front a rotation that includes newly re-signed veterans Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte. The latter signing was particularly important for Sabathia, who has developed a close relationship with Pettitte.
"For me personally, it's always a plus having him around, just talking to him,'' said Sabathia, who expected Pettitte to return. "Pitching for the Yankees for so long and being a lefty, we have a lot of the samepitches. I'm excited to have him back, and obviously our team gets an advantage with how great he's been over the years. So I'm looking forward to it.''